266 B. POLEVOI times up and down the hospital corridor, or to dance mazurkas and foxtrots on his swollen, excruciatingly painful stumps. But back in the hospital he had pledged himself to return to active service in Fighter Command. He had set himself a goal, and he strove towards it in spite of sor- row, pain, weariness and disappointment. One day a thick envelope arrived at his new address, which Klavdia Mi- khailovna had sent on. It contained some letters and one from herself inquiring how he was getting on, what suc- cesses he had achieved, and whether his dream had come true. "Has it?" he asked himself, but without answering he began to sort the letters. There were several: one from his mother, one from Olya, one from Gvozdev, and one other that greatly surprised him. The address was written in the hand of the "meteorological sergeant" and beneath it was the inscription: "From Captain K. Kukushkin". He read that one first. Kukushkin wrote that he had been shot down: his plane was hit and set on fire, he bailed out and managed to land within his own lines, but in doing so he dislocated his arm and was now at the medical battalion, where he was "dying from ennui among the gallant wielders of ene- mas", as he put it. He was not worrying, however, for he was confident that he would soon be back in his plane. He added that he was dictating this letter to his, Alexei's, well-known correspondent Vera Gavrilova, who thanks to him, is still called the "meteorological sergeant" in the wing. The letter also said that Vera was a very good comrade and a mainstay to him in his misfortune. At this point Vera wrote on her own behalf, in parentheses, that, of course, Kostya was exaggerating. From this letter Ale- xei learned that he was still remembered in the wing, that his portrait had been added to those of the heroes of the wing that hung in the messroom, and that the Guards had not lost hope of seeing him among them again. The Guards! Meresyev smiled and shook his head. The minds of Kukushkin and of his voluntary secretary must be taken up very much with something if they forgot to inform him of such an important event as the presenta- tion of the Guards' Colours to the wing!